Poisoning By Prescription Drugs On The Rise

There should be an image here!Poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. While several recent high-profile Hollywood celebrity cases have brought the problem to public attention, the rates of unintentional poisoning deaths have been on the rise for more than 15 years, and in fact, unintentional poisoning has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death among people 35* years of age. In a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the U.S. have increased by 65% from 1999 to 2006.

“Deaths and hospitalizations associated with prescription drug misuse have reached epidemic proportions,” said the study’s lead author, Jeffrey H. Coben, MD, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “It is essential that health care providers, pharmacists, insurance providers, state and federal agencies, and the general public all work together to address this crisis. Prescription medications are just as powerful and dangerous as other notorious street drugs, and we need to ensure people are aware of these dangers and that treatment services are available for those with substance abuse problems.”

In the first comprehensive examination of nationwide hospitalizations associated with these prescription medications, researchers examined data gathered from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), which contains records for approximately 8 million hospitalizations per year. By using standard diagnosis codes from the ICD-9-CM, the authors extracted from the NIS all poisonings by drugs, medicinal, and biological substances reported from 1999-2006, and further categorized the specific types of drugs in each case. It was also possible to determine whether the poisoning was diagnosed as intentional, unintentional or undetermined.

Dr. Coben believes that while the data reveals a fast-growing problem, there’s an urgent need for more in-depth research on this wave of injuries and deaths. Writing in the article, he said, “Interviews with survivors could provide important additional details regarding the pathways to abuse of these drugs, the methods used to obtain the medications, the sequencing and combination of drugs that result in overdose, and the immediate precursors to these serious events. The association between hospitalization for prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers and subsequent morbidity and mortality is another area in need of further research.”

While the majority of hospitalized poisonings are classified as unintentional, substantial increases were also demonstrated for intentional overdoses associated with these drugs, likely reflecting their widespread availability in community settings.

From 1999, total estimated hospitalizations in the U.S. for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers increased by 65%; while unintentional poisonings by these drugs increased by 37%. In comparison, during this same period, hospitalizations for poisoning by other drugs, medicinal and biological substances increased by 33%, while all other hospitalizations increased by just over 11%. Unintentional poisonings by other substances increased by 21%. Intentional poisonings from prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers rose by a total of 130% compared to a 53% increase in intentional poisonings from other substances.

The largest percentage increase in hospitalizations for poisoning for a specific drug was observed for methadone (400%). Poisonings by benzodiazepines increased 39%. Hospitalizations for poisoning by barbiturates actually decreased 41%, as did hospitalizations for poisoning by antidepressants (a decrease of 13%).

AJPM Editorial Office @ Elsevier Health Sciences

[Photo above by Dawn V. Gilmore / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Tetris Potter


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Fail to Read Instructions: Guess What You Might Miss

Did you know that by reading the instructions on the Reynolds aluminum box you can avoid the roll having to be removed from its box each time you need a piece of foil. I didn’t. I just always figured that was the way it was. Then lo and behold my husband discovered that there are push in tabs at both ends of the box that when depressed hold the roll in the box as you pull on the roll. This is something that you may have known for years but it is something I didn’t know because I didn’t read the box instructions and I am betting that If I didn’t bother to read them there are others out there who also haven’t read them.

I found it amazing that something so simple could have been a struggle for so long and so it got me to thinking about what else I might be missing.

This in turn led me to think about all the prescriptions my doctors had prescribed for me over the years and what I might have missed by not reading the enclosed warning notices. Once again I was amazed to learn how many of the prescriptions included warning as severe as possible death by taking them. Thankfully only a few of the warnings really alerted me to side effects that I had experienced as a result of taking the medication.

So I guess my point is that whenever you buy a new product, even one that seems self explanatory, or are prescribed a new medication it is important to take the time to read the instructions and learn how to use it effectively and safely. I hope that this helps any of you who might not previously have taken the time to read the enclosed use information on any new product.

Is Your Doctor Paid For Prescribing Certain Pharmaceuticals Drugs?

Having suffered from several health related issues I can personally attest to the fact that every doctor and/or specialist that I have seen seems to have an office filled with pens and notepads that have been supplied by certain pharmaceutical companies. However, according to AARP magazine drug makers actually spend billions every year to woo doctors into prescribing their drugs. This bribery includes everything from pizza and clipboards to consulting fees and trips. Everything is done to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs in a quest for the almighty dollar even if it means losing sight of the patient’s best interests.

The good news is that many doctors are now speaking out against these gifts and favors and the Institute of Medicine is actually trying to pen a conflict of interest guideline for doctors to use when dealing with pharmaceutical companies. In addition, Congress and state legislatures across the country are forming committees and drafting statutes that would require drug companies to publicly declare their gifts to physicians so patients can find out which doctors are benefiting from prescribing certain drugs.

In my own experience, I developed Cushings disease as a result of a doctor prescribing large doses of the steroid Prednisone to combat a diagnosis of Lupus. This, along with osteoporosis, cataracts, and skin problems has been the result of my overexposure to this drug. Unfortunately, my current doctors do not concur with the diagnosis but due to the prior treatment I will forever be haunted by the terrible side effects of a drug I am unable to discontinue.

This was even seen when I sought a holistic doctor to try and wean off the many prescriptions. The only difference was that this doctor was in cahoots with the natural medicine companies and the cost of vitamins and supplements was staggering. When all was said and done, my diet was restricted to organic foods and supplements with no improvement in my adrenal gland function. This meant that the reason I went to see him, which was to get off the Prednisone, was never accomplished.

While this is my problem I know that at the time I was too uninformed to notice the obvious signs of drug company propaganda that filled the doctor’s office even though at one time he had prescribed a combination of some 18 prescriptions. I am hoping that by writing this article that others with health issues will seek more comprehensive care when they notice the tell tale signs of pharmaceutical evidence.

Today there is a building momentum to restore a sense of medical ethics which has been sorely lacking in the last several years. However according to a 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine 94 percent of the doctors polled said that they had “direct ties” to the drug company.

My solution was to seek out a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy). He did his residency at the Mayo Clinic and concentrates on preventative medicine, even though he is qualified to take care of acute and chronic conditions as well. His advice: Use as few prescriptions as medically necessary, eat a healthful diet (low in fat in sugar), and exercise. Sound like something you have heard before? Well, overall it works. While I have not been able to wean myself from the Prednisone, I am now down to a basic pain medicine, a high blood pressure diuretic, Prednisone , a hormone replacement, and once-a-week Actonel to try and rebuild my bones.

While this may still sound like a lot of pills it is the original eighteen that I was on when I first went to see him. So remember Vioxx, and the current finding on the cholesterol lowering drugs that have been found to have cost consumers a lot of money and have had no positive effect. In other words, beware of the dangers lurking in your physicians prescription pad and do your own research on possible side effects before subjecting your body to the chemicals (yes, drugs) that the drug companies want to sell you.

[tags]Pharmaceutical companies, drugs, prescription drugs, doctors prescriptions, cholesterol lowering drugs, Vioxx, Actonel, Prednisone, Lupus, osteoporosis, cataract, New England Journal of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathy, Mayo Clinic, Physician ties to Drug Companies[/tags]